One of the main goals of prison facilities is to rehabilitate individuals and reduce further justice system involvement. However, 55% of people released from U.S. prisons will re-enter a prison facility within five years.
This pattern is not observed in other developed countries, which experience far lower prison re-entry rates (see Figure 1). Figure 1 also highlights that the U.S. invests far less in its incarcerated populations than other developed countries.
The Kewanee Life Skills Re-entry Center is an Illinois Department of Corrections facility that invests intensively in education, health access, and humane treatment in the years leading up to an individual’s release.
The facility transforms behind-the-wall programming and institutional culture, reorienting every aspect of incarceration towards rehabilitation and treatment. For instance, incarcerated individuals can move freely throughout the facility without being physically escorted from one location to another.
The Kewanee LSRC has been designed to serve individuals who are not low risk, i.e., it focuses exclusively on individuals that are at medium or high risk of recidivating post-release. The facility also includes individuals with serious convictions – 48% of individuals are serving sentences for murder or class X felony convictions.
The University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Illinois at Chicago are partnering with the Illinois Department of Corrections to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the Kewanee Life Skills Re-entry Center. This facility is at the forefront of prison reform efforts in the U.S., and findings from this evaluation could provide policymakers nationwide with a roadmap for effectively reducing incarceration rates.